4 Challenges for Downtown Re-Development

Downtown BIZ, among others, has brought in a consultant to advise them on how best to bring retailers to the downtown. In his early observations, Michael Berne of MJB Consulting identified four challenges: (From Free Press):

  1. There are four main retail clusters competing for business, i.e. downtown is too big;
  2. Panhandlers are bad for business;
  3. The skywalk hurts street-level business; and,
  4. Not enough people live downtown.

Numbers 1 and 3 are the same thing, really: too much space to be filled by retailers. Moreover, 1 and 3 are relative to population density, point 4. As for point 2, it too is related to density as more people on the street means more of a sense of safety. So, I would summarize the challenges as:

  1. Not enough people living downtown.

Density is something that Winnipeg does not do well, despite a climate that should require it. Such is the product of cheap oil and poor public transportation. Will developers now recognize that demand for downtown living is going to go up? Or will they continue to see record new house prices as incentive to keep building more sprawl.

What we need from our province and city – if they want to get serious about downtown, carbon emissions, public transportation, etc… – is a tax incentive system that taxes sprawl and funds infill. Once we have people, we can have all the downtown retailers we can shake a stick at.


27 responses to “4 Challenges for Downtown Re-Development

  1. Actually, Winnipeg does do density well, aside from our sparse downtown and bombed-out commercial streets-turned-highways. Still, Broadway-Assiniboine (13k+/km²?), Central Park, Daniel MacIntyre, and many other urban neighborhoods have significant density. What we really need is the Wilson subway plan to help restore these dense neighborhoods to their historic levels (& beyond) while magnetizing the inner city into stalwart shopping streets worthy of a midwest metropolis.

    -reader #6

  2. Wilson Subway plan, garbage.

    What you need is to bring in 25000 people a day into downtown instead of busing them out of it.

    When you can swallow that pill, then you may get some “density”

  3. 1. Not enough people living downtown.

    If only we had a developer willing to build an apartment building on a surface parking lot in the downtown core.

    Oh right …

  4. I don’t know about you, but I really do not like the idea of living in the middle of a dense city area. I like my space, and the ability to not be constantly around people. That is the allure of living out of downtown – privacy. You cannot discount this as a reason why Winnipeg is not a dense city. If you want more people to move into the middle of the city, you really need to change the culture of Winnipeg.

    This actually isn’t a problem exclusive to Winnipeg too – I have been to 5 different provinces this year, and people just don’t like to socialize enough. For instance, you don’t know how hard it was in Victoria to get people to go out and do group activities. I wanted to go out hiking, and it took me months to find people willing to go out with me.

    Bars and coffee houses are too expensive downtown to make people go to them more than once or twice a week. The bars and coffee shops also need to be more out in the open so that people can see each other. Another problem is that they make the music in these social establishments too loud. If Winnipeg wants to attract people downtown, they also need to block off the main streets their and replace it with a boardwalk sort of atmosphere. Of course, in the winter this may not be the most attractive thing.

    Actually, the winter may be one of the main reasons why there isn’t such an environment. Perhaps they need some sort of enclosure that can be taken off during the nice days.

    Ultimately as of now, there is little reason for people to want to go downtown. Downtown Winnipeg is not really very attractive, and with the heavy amounts of traffic, there is not much in the way of being able to make it more person friendly.

  5. They hired a consultant to find this out ? I could have told you that for free.

  6. LOL PTT

    Evan, you are right, as it is, downtown Winnipeg isn’t really a draw for suburban residents. I don’t think the “nightlife” or “shopping ‘ soultions would work.

    The solution is for the City to create a definitive need to go downtown.

    On a small scale that would be creating specific business zones for like minded industry. Call Centers would be an example. Pesdestrian friendly entertainment zones would be another.

    On a large scale it would be something like moving the University of Manitoba to the core to maximize research and development with the Hostpital and virology labs ( BioMed city plan ).

    Law and Finance departments can easily move, as can engineering and sciences. The arts program would inject a boost to the core. Not to mention the fact we would save millions in transit development and leverage todays transit to its fullest.

    As a suburbanite, I have no need or desire to go downtown on my off hours. Judging by the pedestrian traffic, I would have to say , there are another 600 thousand like me, and you can’t change that with the sort of ideas floating around.

  7. Hi Sigh,

    I agree that we need to bring more offices downtown. I also agree that culture is an important factor here and thank you for bringing it up.

    I don’t think that any of my suggestions above will alter the culture of suburbia in any way. However, I am of the opinion that we are facing the end of cheap oil with no viable substitute as well as numerous other ressource scarcities, in a macro-economic sense. As well, the world is faced with the threat of global climate change. So, there is an imperative to begin to change the culture and market forces are at play that have the potential to force change.

    In Jared Diamond’s Collapse, he writes about Easter Island’s inability to alter their culture at a time when they were over-taxing their environment and the devastation that such cultural inertia caused. Juxtaposed with this example was Tokugawa-Era Japan (the era of the shogunate). What Japan faced years ago was, like Easter Island, total de-forestation. Instead of allowing inertia to lead to self-immolation, the government sought to change habits. (Habit formation is an intersting topic in of itself for pedagogically inclined folks such as myself)

    I would argue that culture changes all the time, even the culture of suburbia which is itself very new. Moreover, we can all have an impact on culture in our actions and expressions of opinion. It is my hope that we will sufficiently alter our way of life to the point where it is sustainable for many generations to come. I welcome your input on this, particularly on the questions of what will draw people downtown and pedestrian zones.

    As for you, Evan, I’m a bit surprised to read that you want privacy AND decry others for not joining in group activities. This is an interesting dichotomy.

  8. Michael M. wrote:

    “As well, the world is faced with the threat of global climate change. So, there is an imperative to begin to change the culture and market forces are at play that have the potential to force change.”

    Another Michael, this one from Russia had this to say back in the 1980s about global warming:

    “The emerging ‘environmentalization’ of our civilization and the need for vigorous action in the interest of the entire global community will inevitably have multiple political consequences.
    Perhaps the most important of them will be a gradual change in the status of the United Nations. Inevitably, it must assume some aspects of a world government.“

    Also, read this page:

    Global warming: socialism’s trojan horse

    Anyways, to sum up what Gorby said… the environmental movement will be used as a scapegoat to bring us further and further into One World Government, which, if you read your Bible (Revelations and other books) sayst that this is the plan. Our freedoms and rights will be diminished (see Canadian Human Rights, et. al.)

    I only stumbled upon the truth while viewing information about Men’s rights and such…

    Read <a href=”http://henrymakow.com/”HenryMakow.com . He was a Univ. of Winnipeg English Prof. who had in his curriculum The Streetcar Named Desire. However in describing a scene in the story ior interpreting it, he offended one of his feminist students.

    Now Henry writes about the coming NWO.

    So now that I know the truth, I no longer cite global warming (or as the Marxists like to call it now “climate change”).

    No, what rail rapid transit does it to increase densities in dense urban cores (like Osborne Village), and to revitalize those zones that have become somewhat decayed (like Centennial, West Alexander, etc…)

    It just so happens to also make it easier for urbanites, suburbanities and visitors to the city to get around in.

  9. Sigh’s comments make for an exasperating read. Brace yourself for $2/litre gas buddy

  10. Certainly, Mike. There are times when I don’t want to be around people, and times when I do. Ultimately, when given a choice, I would rather spend my free time going out of the city, and living in the middle of the city makes that option less likely. But I would rather do this with other people. Few people, inner city or suburbanite alike tend to want to explore.

    Perhaps a good example of an inner city done better is Calgary. There are tons of high rises, but the bottom two floors are generally used as shops and restaurants. The buildings are connected by skywalks, so you don’t have to go outside in the winter. The streets are not too busy because they made downtown parking something like $30 a day. There are trains that go to the main suburbs (although as the sprawl continues, the train becomes far too packed). The sidewalks are very large (at least one typical street lane wide). The stores are typically packed with people with suits (when I went, I was in typical student fashion mode, and I felt way out of place). It was an interesting place to visit.

    Please don’t take my incoherent and sometimes contradictory statements too seriously. This is just the way I think. I have the rural conservatism mindset that was instilled when I was growing up conflicting with my realization that a lot of it is bullshit. Anyways, continue.

  11. Also, as a geophysicist, it is laughable to suggested that global warming is some sort of “Marxist plot” to rid your wallet of money.


    “In this house, we obey the laws of thermodynamics!” – Homer Simpson

    The rise of CO2 levels are expected to raise global average temperatures by 2-5 degrees by 2100. With these temperatures, melting ice caps and thermal expansion will cause sea level to rise between 20 and 60 cm during that time period. And that range may be conservative. If you don’t think that amount of sea level change is significant, consider that most of the country of Bangladesh is withing 1 m of sea level. And this is the result of man made climate change (natural variability is only responsible for maybe 10-15% of the rise in temperatures observed over the past 100 years). The infrastructure that will be required to prevent the erosion of coastal cities will be enormous, as will be the costs of the increased frequency of extreme weather events.

    On the whole, it will be cheaper to mitigate and lower greenhouse gases than to deal with the consequences of global warming. I always get a chuckle over you neo-conservatives that think this is all just some plot. You guys are batshit crazy. Unfortunately, there are a lot of you, and I have to read your dispairing cynicism on every blog or message board I read.

  12. Editor’s note: Evan posted twice because my spam filter blocked his first message. But, he makes good points in both posts, so I’ve kept them both.

    Also, as a geophysicist, it is laughable to say that global warming is some “Marxist conspiracy” to remove money from your wallet. I suggest you read up a bit on it:


    “In this house, we obey the Laws of Thermodynamics” – Homer Simpson

    Under current projections, due almost entirely to the rise of greenhouse gases and positive feedback mechanisms, global average temperatures are expected to rise between 2 and 5 degrees by 2100. As a result of the warming, the melting of continental ice sheets and thermal expansion of the oceans will cause global sea level to rise between 20 and 60 cm during that time. Although that may not seem like much, consider that something like 20-30% of the world’s population lives within 1 m of sea level. For example, the country of Bangladesh is largely within 1 m of sea level, and it is one of the most densely populated areas as well. The implications of this is staggering: imagine millions of people migrating away from the present coastline to other areas. There are going to be wars because of this. And for countries rich enough to stave off the rising sea levels, the costs will be enormous.

    In terms of the economy as well as human society, how can any conservative be for continuing the status quo? You neo-cons make me laugh. It is unfortunate that there are so many of them, as I have to read all their cynicism in every blog and news message board I go to. You guys are quick to chastize those proposing solutions to this problem, yet in doing so, you look like a bunch of batshit crazy loons. What are you proposing? That we continue to polute our Earth, because it is more convenient? You are quick to blame India and China for the increase in polutants, instead of pushing our government to invest in technologies that we could sell (and hey, generate revenue and jobs) to these countries. We have the money now from all this oil revenue, we should not be squandering it now for temporary tax relief and funding the military on hopeless “democracy building”. Natural resources are fleeting, let’s not let them go to waste.

  13. One of the big problems is that Winnipeg’s downtown is just way to big for a city of 700,000 people.

    Maybe the stadium can shrink our downtown a bit by razing everything from Broadway and Main to Graham and Main on the North South axis all the way over to gary.

    Taking that big chunk out of the downtown with a staduim and parking lots would ease the downtown footprint quite a bit, but I suspect getting the land would cost more than a few home owners in Point Douglas. But Winnipeg does love razing major sections of our core for mega projects so you never know!

  14. I guess I too am too crazy for the blogs!

    Editor’s note: My spam filter blocks all posts with more than 1 link and that’s why you were blocked.

  15. Evan, I don’t have to ready your post to say that what you wrote is probably 99.999% incorrect or unproven.

    What I do know from personal experience is this.

    I am now in my 40s.

    Waaay, way back, probably before you were even born (I’m assuming you’re a twentysomething) I used to deliver the Trib newspaper in the late 1970s.

    In 1979 and 1980 I subbed for a classmate of mine who was on vacation with his family.

    I remember the temperatures of July-August of those months being in the +30 to +33 Celcius range for several days at a time.

    In the same years we used to also go camping to Bird’s Hill.

    I remember like it was yesterday just how hot it was. By the time it was 10 a.m. or noon-time it had gotten quite hot in that camper trailer that it was just too uncomfortable to sit in. No we were not there to see the Folk Festival, but just on a family camping trip.

    Fast forward to this past week with the weather the people had during the Folk Festival… it felt more like September rather than early- mid- July…

    The temperatures have been FALLING, not rising… And we’re heading towards the same in the future. Only God Himself knows how long this new colder climate is going to go on for.

    I just don’t believe the Communist crap that comes out anymore. And once you know “the truth” it shall set you free.

  16. Wilson subway plan? Tell us about all the cities that are building subways from scratch in 2008. OH…. what? There aren’t any. Who in their right mind actually think Winnipeg will ever get BRT or LRT let alone a heavy rail subway?

    Winnipeg is a suburban city. It chose to abandanon it’s downtown decades ago. It would take a miracle to turn it around. With the likes of Katz as mayor it would likely take more than a miracle. Give up. Move to a real city.

  17. Mark, the Canada Line in Vancouver is a brand new line that will serve the Vancouver International Airport, Richmond B.C., and downtown Vancouver starting in the second half of 2009.

    Canada Line (first train in 2009 and every 5 minutes afterwards

  18. Well Jim,

    Are you saying that this data from the US Department of Commerce is incorrect? If so, why?

    Remembering one particular hot or cold day in one particular location is not the same as a global average. For example, when I was 6 years old, there was a day-time high of 19.6 degrees on July 13th, 1986. But, this year, on July 13th, i.e. today!, there was a high of about 23 degrees. So, does this mean that the temperature on Earth has risen by 3.4 degrees in 22 years?

    Honestly, there is ample data from multiple sources that demonstrates clearly that the temperature has gone up on Earth in the past century. This data is not part of an international plot orchistrated by Satan in conjunction with Gorbichov and Qaddafi to bring about a Global Communist Revolution.

  19. What the hell are you babbling about. You obviously do not know what the word “climate” is. The global climate has been relatively stable for the past 10,000 years, which is unprecedented over the past 700,000 years. And by relatively stable, I mean that it has not deviated more than about 1 degree during that time. So yes, a 2-5 degree increase is very significant. Your recollection of temperatures during a particular summer have no bearing on climate, because all it tells you is the temperatures that summer. It was colder in the early 90s, for instance, because of the aftermath of the Mount Pinatubo eruption.

    I suggest you read the IPCC report on climate change. It is a very well written report, and its results were agreed upon by every government in the UN, including Canada and the United States. Its conclusions are probably too conservative.

    Plus, I really don’t know how you can argue against the laws of physics. CO2 and methane are greenhouse gases, so if you increase their concentration in the atmosphere, of course you are going to get global warming. The warming trend has been observed globally, and temperatures are statistically higher than anytime in the past 1000 years. Just because you think that temperatures are cooler in Winnipeg than 30 years ago means little without data to back it up.

    In fact, I always put my money where my mouth is. I downloaded temperature data from the Winnipeg Airport, and plotted it up:

    I also included a 10 year moving average filter to reduce the effects of outliers. As you can see from the data, the average July temperature varies between about 19 and 20 degrees since the time series began. Your anecdotal evidence that the late 70s was warmer turns out to be wrong – it was actually warmer the past few years than it was then. The early 90s was cooler, as I mentioned earlier this is due to a volcanic eruption. There is no distinct warming or cooling trend looking at the July temperatures, though there were cool periods during the late 60s-early 70s and during the 90s. On the whole, no conclusions can be made about climate trends based solely on July average temperatures aside from what I have stated.

    I have proved you are wrong. I can go on, but I refuse to spend too much time arguing with the ignorant who chose to plug their ears and go “nah nah nah commies”.

  20. Sorry I exasperate you Dallas…..and whats 2 bucks a liter got to do with anything.

    Is this an oil thread ?

  21. Pingback: Downtown BIZ: Rinse and repeat « PolicyFrog

  22. Jim Jaworski wrote:
    “ref=”http://henrymakow.com/”HenryMakow.com . He was a Univ. of Winnipeg English Prof. who had in his curriculum The Streetcar Named Desire. However in describing a scene in the story ior interpreting it, he offended one of his feminist students.”

    I’m opening a can of worms here, but Henry Makow was not fired for “describing a scene in the story for interpreting it”… and offending feminists… or whatever you mean by that.

    Henry Makow was a sessional lecturer whose one year contract was not renewed because he boasted about beating up a former girlfriend, asked students inappropriate questions about their sex lives, and was an all-round belligerent asshole who shouted down any one who disagreed with him.

    I’ll leave alone his outlandish claims about Jewish bankers conspiring to force gay marriage on the world to further their bolshevik plots, unless you’d care to defend him on that.

    Editor’s Note: If the contents of the post above are true, then I certainly think that U of W was right to get rid of the person in question, who seems nuts, to put it mildly. However, Don Street Blog does not know anything about the case in question nor the people involved and so refrains from commenting on the validity of the allegations.

  23. Watch out Jim, those wily communists are going to come to your room (which I assume is some sort of dank cave miles away from civilization) and, Editor’s note: The rest of this post was removed for poor choice of words.

  24. Ok, I admit I am not the wittiest person in the world. :p

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